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9/19/2006
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Lonelygirl15 Creators Rely On Open Source

The inventors plan to take the video-saga experiment in social networking much further by building a Web site community around the show, which could offer an active forum, an interface allowing users to link video streams, and a wiki to create an encyclopedia to track characters.

Creators behind the Internet video phenomenon Lonelygirl15 will rely on open source technology and a newly launched Web site to explore possibilities in storytelling.

The inventors -- Greg Goodfried, 27; Miles Beckett, 28; and Mesh Flinders, 26 -- plan to take the video-saga experiment in social networking much further by using technology to build a Web-site community around the show.

Through an active forum, fans can provide feedback on daily decisions made by the 16-year-old video star Bree. "The community is the key to the show," Goodfried said. "If the fans didn't have the ability to comment and interact, the show would die."

Soon fans also can expect to have an interface that lets them link numerous video streams, and a wiki to create an encyclopedia to track characters. They also can create and post viewer response videos that add to the story line through the Revver Inc., an online video host and viral ad service that emerged from beta test last week.

An ad inserted at the end of the user-generated videos will let fans share revenue generated through the click-through ads.

Links to music sites where fans can buy and download music heard in the videos are also being discussed. The creators intend to promote unsigned struggling bands in the videos similar to some already featured like "Something for Rockets," "The Jane Does," and MAUF.

On a shoestring budget themselves, the trio supports the Web site with open-source technologies like MySQL databases. "Our entire backend that supports the Web site is free because we use WordPress," Beckett said. "Five years ago, you would have had to buy UNIX boxes and build a custom content management system."

Beckett, a self-professed technology geek and movie maker, said he came up with the idea of using short videos as a technique in storytelling while a surgical resident.

The Lonelygirl15 episodes cost virtually nothing to create. All are shot with a $130 Web camera. The sound is recorded from the internal microphone. Two desk lamps provide the lighting. Beckett's laptop is the computer required to record the segment.

Beckett believes technology has hit the perfect storm to make it all possible. The group writes and shoots one show daily, and posts the video to the Internet that night. They spend the following 24 hours reading posted comments by viewers, so the video's characters know how to respond in the next day's script.

Beckett attributes the success, in part, to falling video production costs, readily available broadband access, and powerful editing software, iMovie for Macs, and Movie Maker for PCs.

Web site infrastructure development costs have fallen, too, Beckett said. There are many more open-source applications today, and broadband access has become available in the majority of U.S. households.

By 2005, 56 percent of household in the United States had adopted broadband, up 6 percent from the prior year, according to research firm Ovum.

But while technology appears to inspire the trio's creativity, some technology insiders believe the sociological aspects have proved more powerful because through social network sites, technology enables people to peer into the life of others.

"People have a voyeuristic interest in seeing what other people are doing, saying or thinking online," said eMarketer senior analyst Debra Williamson. "It's a big part of why YouTube has exploded in popularity in recent months. Lonelygirl15 seemed authentic and real, and people were drawn to that."

Blogger Anthony Citrano, co-founder of the PopTech conference, said the Lonelygirl15 phenomena wouldn't have been possible five years ago. "Today, millions of people have access to broadband technology, whereas that wasn't the case five years ago, but we're naturally curious creatures," he said.

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